Album review: Sweet sophomore satisfaction on Made For Broadway’s New Heights, Same Lows

Made For Broadway is fast becoming a staple in the South African music scene and paving the way for Pop-Punk in the country with their melodic hits and colourful personality on and off the stage. Simply put it always seems that these guys are having the time of their lives. Although their lyrics are bittersweet they always seem to strike a balance with some of the happiest sounding music in the genre.

That balance between high and low, sweet and sour is explored further on Made for Broadway’s newest sophomore album release New Heights, Same Lows that takes everything good about their debut album Life Lessons and multiplies it. There is definitely a progression with faster riffs, amplified vocals, and breakneck drum beats, with the usual Made For Broadway sound – catchy, melodic and downright jumpy. I dare you to listen to this album and not find yourself bouncing around like Tigger from Winnie The Pooh.

Justin James (vocals), Sean Braam (guitar), Brogan Thompson (bass) and Tate Sutton (drums) has set the bar high for Pop-Punk in SA and before long Broadway could well be calling this quartet.

Made For Broadway. Photo: Henk Steyn/Henk Steyn Photography

Made For Broadway. Photo: Henk Steyn/Henk Steyn Photography.

Here is a track by track review of New Heights, Same Lows:

  1. Next Station (9/10)

In my opinion, an album opener sets the scene for the entire album and in Made For Broadway’s case, they start off as strong as possible with a barn burner of a track. This energetic track with clever lyrics, wordplay and a mixture of riffs and pace-filled drums is one of the best tracks on the album both lyrically and musically. The song starts off with a drumstick tap in before the main riff and verse kicks in – James just has that ability to make you sit up and take notice with his voice smoothly taking the verse to the chorus with a majestic melody. The chorus is a highlight as James sings “At the next station you’re gone, gone ooo on, gone ooo on.” – an incredibly catchy delivery that will stick in your brain. The theme of trains and stations mixed with relationships and the arrival and departure of love just works perfectly here. A must listen.

  1. Don’t Say Goodbye (8/10)

This is a bit slower than the opening track but still packs a punch with a fantastic rhythm and chorus section where Braam and James shine. The lyrics once again deal with failed relationships and the despair of saying goodbye and the various consequences of losing love and the growing pains associated with it: “It’s hard to lose love, it’s harder growing up.” The bridge has a Blink-182 feel to it with Thompson’s bass riff keeping the rhythm as the groove takes centre stage together with James’ vocals breaking down the pace a bit.  A solid track that should be a staple in the band’s set list.

  1. Above This (7/10)

“Above This” starts off with an elongated riff from Braam as Sutton and Thompson add some volume with great bass and drums work. The verse is short and sharp and builds up nicely into the chorus: “I know you know better, navigate us out alive, I know you know better, you left me here to die,” showcases the band’s clever lyrics. This track’s strong points are in its solid chorus as well as its various softer and louder sections that adjust the pace perfectly. Sutton’s drumming must be commended here as his snare fills in the outro give the song a solid edge and punch.

  1. It’s All Uphill (9/10)

If you ever wondered why Tate Sutton is such a solid punk drummer, just listen to this track. It’s a pop-punk drumming masterpiece as he absolutely blasts the drums with precision and purpose. It’s beautiful to hear and after the first 10 seconds, I couldn’t help but to “air drum” along to it. This is definitely one of the fastest songs that Made For Broadway has ever written and Braam’s happy guitar riff adds the backbone to this song. The lyrics also have a positive and determined undertone and this is one of the more refreshing songs on the album. You just can’t help but smile after hearing this number – it’s like strawberry ice cream on a hot day with added sprinkles.

  1. Things Had To Chance (8/10)

“If blood’s thicker than water, then I wonder how you left me out at sea,” is how this track goes. It is about failed friendships, relationships and family that sometimes disappoint and change. You then need to decide if you’ll hold on to the pain or let it go. This personal track has a great bass-driven interlude before the second verse, which is one of my favourite parts of the song. James shines on this track as his vocals take this track to another level with his range coming to the fore. A really relatable song that fans will surely get into.

  1. All You Want Is Space (9/10)

Made For Broadway released “All You Want Is Space” earlier this year as a single and this fantastic number is now also available on their new album. This song about failed relationships and how promises get broken is absolutely fantastic lyric-wise and really digs deep into problems that relationships face – we all have been in relationships that fail when someone wants “space”. It hurts even more when you realize you wasted your time on something that will never be mended again. “All you want is space when I’m running out of place to put all my shit aside for you. Everything is wrong, give you space and then you’re gone,” is one of the best lyrics in my opinion. A fantastic pop-punk song with a defiant message and music to hammer the lyrics home.

  1. Worth It (7/10)

Self-doubt and personal growth are two strong themes on this track that ties in the overall theme on the anthem. The lyrics are great and delivery is once again spot on. Everyone that listen’s to this song will relate in some or other way and this is one of Made For Broadway’s key ingredients. They seem to always draw you in as a listener with insanely catchy music and then hook you with heartfelt lyrics. This is one of those songs that gets better with each listen. A hidden gem on the album.

  1. Spoken Up (8/10)

Another fast track from Made For Broadway when Sutton’s drumming is once again one of the highlights. The message here is a personal one where failure and regret once again rears its ugly head as James sings the chorus with intense passion: “Suffering on my own, my friends don’t know about it. Shouldn’t have gone so far. I should’ve spoken up. Now I’m lost forever. I should’ve spoken up.”

I personally love the bridge where the song goes into a clean section where James’ voice and soft guitar picking set a contemplative atmosphere and let the lyrics sink in much deeper than the previous faster chorus: “Looking back on the last year. Let myself down again. Repeating habits I can’t break. Dismissing common sense,” sings James before repeating this in the outro as backing vocals and the full band adds some volume to this statement. One of the band’s most personal, emotional and self-contemplative songs.

  1. Fall Behind (7/10)

Any excellent pop-punk album won’t be without a slower ballad and “Fall Behind” fits into this category as the contemplative and retrospective nature of the second part of the album continues on this track. You get a Neck Deep vibe on this song as James sings about his experiences as a teenager and how things have turned out since. This honest and harmonious track is a pleasure to listen to and Made for Broadway truly shows their versatility here: “I should’ve listened to my mother when I just turned 18, she said you better start thinking ‘cause the world’s not waiting. She said you better start running ‘cause you’ll fall behind, she was right.”

  1. Seventeen (7/10)

The album once again picks up speed in this retrospective looks at the band’s teenage years and how they spent their time with young love, and how relationships ebbed and flowed. A fast-paced song where the band shows their knack for telling an intimate story with detailed lyrics and catchy music. The backing vocals here add great depth with the “it’s over It’s over, yeah” repetition. The band really makes great use of the layered vocals on this album and this song is no exception.

  1. Lonely (8/10)

New Heights, Same Lows ends just as it started: with a bang, as Braam’s simple but effective guitar riff opens this song on loneliness and longing for better days and nights: “Saturday nights used to be about getting smoked up and just hanging out, but times are changing and you don’t move the same, while you are firing at me, would you pass the blame. Saturday nights, used to be okay,” sings James in the intro that builds up brilliantly to the chorus. The chorus is definitely in the top three on the album and once again underlines Made For Broadway’s ability to write music that crowds can sing to their heart’s content. You just wish this sweet sounding chorus could repeat in your eardrums.

This album evoked why I feel in love with pop-punk music in the first place. The despair, emotion, and sincerity in the lyrics, the honesty that I can totally relate with. The catchy riffs, pounding drums and jumping bass and sugary sweet vocals are the icing on the cake. This is anything but a sophomore slump – this is SA’s pop-punk album of the year. This is Made For Broadway version 2.0.

New Heights, Same Lows is now available on iTunes, Spotify, Deezer and other legitimate music places.




Wouter Pienaar
Sport Journalist

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